The Stop and Go — Limit Holdem


Poker is a fairly unusual play in holdem, and particularly in limit holdem, which is what I was playing tonight when a very good female professional player employed it against me.  And I’m pretty sure she made a chump out of me with it, though I can’t be positive as the hands weren’t shown.

Stop and Go occurs when an out-of-position player leads at the flop, gets raised, just calls (stop!)– and then leads again on the turn (go!).  It’s unusual because when a player really likes their hand they are far more likely to re-raise the flop and continue the turn.  And when they are doubtful about their hand, they will just call the flop raise, and then check on the turn.  Stop and go is employed far more frequently in no-limit holdem — where it can be used as a way to control the pot size without ceding the initiative — than in limit hold’em.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been faced with the play in the six months since I returned to playing limit holdem.

At any rate, here’s how the hand went down:                       

Poker Game: $40-80 limit holdem, 9 players

Pre-flop: I am in middle position with J♣J

Action: EP player raises, Villain is next to act and calls, I 3bet, the BB cold-calls, and the opener and villain call.

Flop: AJ♠9♠ (four players)

Action: BB checks, opener checks, villain donks into me, I raise, BB and opener fold, villain calls.

Turn: 6♣ (two players)

Action: Villain donks again!  I raise, villain thinks and folds.

When villain bet the flop, I immediately put her on an Ace, with perhaps AQ or ATs.  I raised because the texture of the flop was a dangerous one for my hand.  My other two opponents were likely to have some sort of straight draw or back door flush draw on this flop, and I did not want to let them draw cheaply to those hands.  I do not like slowplaying sets in this spot.  I was a little disappointed to see the other two players fold, but also knew that this already nice pot was now very likely mine, because if my read on villain was correct, she was drawing close to dead.

When villain bet the turn, my read didn’t change.  I didn’t expect the 6 to have helped her, because in that case she probably would have check-raised me.  I went ahead and raised anyway, though, because I was greedy and wanted to win an extra big bet from her if I could. And there was also the chance my read was wrong, and she had a strangely played two-pair, or a draw.

But no, villain folded to my raise, much to my chagrin.  And she correctly saved herself some money by doing so.  Assuming she had a pair of Aces, she saved half a bet over a check and call down line.  And a full bet over a bet, call, and then check and call down line.  And she achieved this with a line that would have charged me the maximum if I didn’t have a pair of Aces beat.

So is there merit in villain’s Stop and Go line?  I’ll have to devote some more thought to this.  It might be exploitable:  For instance, from now on I will wait until the river to raise with my big hands if she makes this same play.  And I might also throw in some “For Showdown Raises” and even bluff-raises on the turn against her, to see if I can induce a similar fold.

But this particular player is a very good reader of  hands and opponents.  Her great talent allows her to take lines like this that put her talent to the test.  I’m going to put her to the test in the future, and see if I can exploit her when she chooses this line.  Maybe I can.

But maybe I can’t. I like her play.



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